Facing the Truth.
Yitro (Exodus 18-20 )
One of the hardest but greatest things to do is admit when we have been wrong. That is just what Jethro, Moses' father-in-law did. He was a famous and well respected high-priest of an idol-worshipping nation. But when he learned the truth, that there was only one God, he admitted he had been wrong in his beliefs and gave up all his fame and glory to live for the truth. We can learn from him to seek the truth and not be afraid to change once we find it.
In our story, a kid faces the challenge of facing the truth.
Debby could tell by the fascinated looks on her classmates' and even her teacher's face that her History presentation was a big hit. It seemed almost a sure thing that she was going to get an 'A'. Not that it came as that big of a surprise to her. She didn't like to brag about it, but the fact was that Debby was the smartest kid in the class.
Since Debby was one of the few Jews in the class, for her presentation she decided to focus on Jewish history. The topic of her presentation was the special golden vessels that were in the Holy Temple in ancient Jerusalem. Every night for two weeks, she worked hard not only to research what they looked like but actually to build and paint models of the amazingly beautiful holy vessels.
The only model vessel she didn't have to build from scratch was the menorah (candelabra). Even though the one in the Holy Temple was huge and made of solid gold, Debby figured her own family's small one they used for Chanukah, carefully wrapped with gold-colored foil, would do the trick. It came out even nicer than she thought and looked so realistic that she put it aside to save as the grand finale of her whole presentation.
The kids and even the teacher looked on with amazement as Debby brought out each fascinating model and explained its significance. "And this is what the golden altar looked like on which they would burn the mixture of special incense spices," she said as she held up the gleaming model for all to see to a chorus of "oohs and aahs."
"And now, last but not least," she said with a flourish as she took it out, "here is a model of the special solid gold menorah which would be lit every day of the whole year!"
The whole class gave Debby a standing ovation for her great knowledge and super presentation, when a hand went up in the back of the classroom. It was Lori.
Lori was also Jewish, but that was about all she and Debby seemed to have in common. While Debby was the class brain, Lori, if anything, could be called the class clown. Everyone liked Lori, but when it came to studying, Lori wasn't, let's say, so involved.
"Excuse me, Debby, but I think you made a mistake," Lori said, as a few giggles burst forth from around the classroom at the absurdity of the class clown telling the class brain she got something wrong.
"Yes?" Debby said, feeling a little bit annoyed.
"Well, if I remember right, the menorah in the Temple was made for only seven candles, and your menorah has eight!"
The room burst into laughter. All the kids were sure that Lori had no idea what she was talking about and was just making a joke.
But Debby wasn't paying any attention to the ruckus around her. She was searching with her photographic memory the diagrams she had copied from the museum book to make her models. It didn't take her long to discover - to her horror - that Lori was right! Somehow she had been so excited about using the real menorah that she had missed that detail.
Debby felt herself in a real dilemma. If she admitted she was wrong she'd look really bad, especially if she didn't even know something that Lori did. It would be so easy just to deny it and that would be the end of the story. She was certain that none of the other kids or even the teacher knew the truth and it was clear they would all believe her, whatever she said. But was it okay to just lie like that - especially about something so holy?
"Well Debby, tell me. Am I right or wrong?"
"Lori, please sit down." said the teacher, "If Debby says this is how it was, then I'm sure..."
Debby cleared her throat. "Um, excuse me, Mrs. Smith," she said, "But Lori is absolutely right. I made a mistake; there really should be only seven branches on the menorah."
The class went silent, with more than one mouth dropping open. Just then, the dismissal bell rang and the kids ran out of class. No one laughed at Debby like she had feared and one or two - including Lori - even stopped to tell her how they really respected her for her honesty. She was glad she told the truth, but it certainly wasn't going to help her get her 'A,' which she was sure she had blown with her mistake.
As she gathered up the models, Mrs. Smith walked over to her. "Super presentation, Deb!" the teacher said with a smile.
"Thanks," Debby shrugged, "But I guess after the big mistake I made at the end I don't get an A, right?"
The teacher nodded. Debby sighed - she knew it.
"No, you don't get an 'A,' but you do get an A plus! An A for your usual excellent work, and the extra plus because of the other important lesson you taught the class: the importance of valuing the truth and admitting when you're wrong."
Q. How did Debby feel at first when Lori pointed out she was wrong?
A. She felt scared people would look down on her and wanted to cover up her mistake.
Q. What did she do in the end?
A. She was brave and chose to admit she had been wrong, and found that her friends and teachers really respected her for it.
Q. What life lesson do you think Debby learned that day?
A. Debby was considered the class brain and it was very important to her to seem like she knew what she was talking about. When Lori challenged her it would have been easy for her to bluff her way out of it, but she chose to admit to the truth and saw that being honest with her self and others was the way to go.
Q. Do you think if she had bluffed and fooled everybody Debby would have felt good? Why or why not?
A. Even when a person gets away with a lie and nobody ever finds out, it leaves the person feeling really bad inside. God made us to love and live for truth, and if we don't, there is no way to ever really feel happy about ourselves.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What do you think are some reasons people choose to live with lies?
A. A lot of it has to do with ego in an unhealthy sense. We become ego-invested in our opinions and what we perceive as people's opinions of us. We may feel the pain of admitting we've been wrong is too much to bear. However, the exact opposite is true. It is a person's lies and ego-based posing that weigh heavily on his soul. When we learn to let that go and live for the truth, wherever it takes us, we will only then feel truly free.
Q. A Jewish sage once said that a way for a person to live a life of truth is to ponder what he would be willing to die for, and then dedicate his life to living for those things. How do you understand this concept?
A. In the course of life it is easy to get distracted from our true values and get our priorities mixed up. When we ponder what is truly so important to us that we would be honestly willing to give up our lives for it - be it family, wisdom and meaning, what-have-you - we get a clear picture of our true deepest priorities. When we devote our precious time and life energy to these true priorities and not to lesser things, we experience the tremendous and unparalleled high of living a life of truth.
Spiritual exercise: Spend a few minutes right now pondering what you would be willing to give up your life for if necessary and commit to devoting more of your time and energy, not to die for, but to live for these things.